Short walk from Thrupp to Shipton Weir Lock
The canal village of Thrupp attracts boaters and walkers, drawn to its unspoilt waterways landscape in a countryside setting, and of course its pubs and teashop.
The great canal engineer James Brindley, known as the father of the canals, built the Oxford Canal in the late 1700s in his characteristic winding fashion, flowing around the land’s contours, so there are many meandering swoops and swirls along this leafy rural part of the Oxford. Your route treads through glorious greenery in an unspoilt waterways landscape worth every step you pace.
Canal: Oxford Canal
Start: Sparrowgap Bridge OS Grid ref: SP480154 Postcode: OX5 1JU
Finish: Shipton Weir Lock OS Grid ref: SP487170 Postcode: OX5 1JT
Distance: 2.4km / 1½ miles
Start: The walk sets off from the leafy surroundings of the Grade II-listed Sparrowgap Bridge. Tables spill out towards the towpath from the Jolly Boatman pub which was originally two cottages.
1. Moored visiting boats line the towpath and the canal looks green as overhanging trees are reflected in its water. Curving through the trees, the canal then straightens up as it approaches the hub of Thrupp village.
2. A row of Grade II-listed stone terraced cottages mirrors a row of moored boats in the water and the historic Boat Inn, also Grade II-listed, is to your left. The pub has featured in many episodes of the detective series, Inspector Morse, as well as Barging Round Britain with John Sergeant, and images of these moments are displayed inside.
3. There are open fields on the opposite side and the towpath runs parallel with the road between here and Aubrey’s Lift Bridge, so be aware of any traffic. One of the features of the Oxford Canal is the prevalence of wooden black and white lift bridges, usually used by farmers to access their land. The bridges are normally left down over the canal so boaters need to lift them up for their boats to pass underneath, a surprisingly simple process.
4. After crossing the lift bridge, the towpath continues on the opposite side of the canal while the road enters Thrupp Canal Yard. This beautiful space is filled with historic buildings related to the canal’s trade heritage, including a row of thatched cottages called Salt Row, so-named after one of the cargoes carried by boats along the Oxford Canal. There’s even a tea room and benches in its green centre.
5. Back on the towpath a picnic area is perfectly placed to gongoozle or watch boating activity as boats steer round the sharp bend to negotiate the lift bridge. It’s busy with boats on both sides of the canal by the boatyard facilities and moorings. As you negotiate a gate on the towpath, on your right you’ll notice a run-off from the canal down to the River Cherwell below.
6. Your surroundings open up with fields beyond and glimpses of the river below. This stretch is called Thrupp Wide as the canal widens before narrowing again through trees towards Shipton Bridge, a short walk from the village of Shipton-on-Cherwell. The village church overlooks the canal here.
7. The towpath is narrower and feels more rural despite some village gardens leading down to the canal. Across the canal are the remains of the short railway tunnel of a now disused railway before you walk under the current railway’s bridge. There was a railway disaster at Shipton on Christmas Eve 1874 when nine train carriages fell off the railway bridge into the frozen canal below, killing 34 people.
8. A wooden lift bridge, set in isolated surroundings, is an important remainder of the rare Oxford Canal lift bridges. Parts of the bridge date back to the 18th century, and it is now Grade II-listed. The towpath is lined with wild flowers and the hedgerows are teeming with life. Canal hedgerows are home to countless creatures and are often bursting with elder, hawthorn, hazel and berries.
End: Expansive views over farmland accompany the canal as it swirls again towards Shipton Weir Lock and Bridge. The River Cherwell and the Oxford Canal merge below the lock for a few miles, so a light system warns boaters if the river is flooding. This is a great spot for a picnic before you retrace your steps back along the towpath to Thrupp, enjoying this walk from a different viewpoint.